April 7, 2013

Steubenville's Inconvenient Truths

Pictured at left: Now convicted, Ma'lik Richmond and Trent Mays, both age 16.

The Steubenville rape case has been the subject of outrage and angst across the country as the facts of an ugly case have increasingly come into the public consciousness.  My better half, the Hot Little Number was moved to write on the case recently. In her post, Three Ohio Victims - The Stuebenville Lesson, she laments the lost potential and the changed trajectory of the young lives involved and points out what she would have highlighted if the MSM were hers to control:

1. Minors with access to drugs and alcohol make really stupid choices.
2. Unsupervised teens without a moral compass or value base, or good judgement, make poor choices.
3. Amidst a bad situation, technology used as a tool to create further harm for Ohio teen.
4. Violation of basic decency leads to life lessons for youth and parents.

I think all of the above are valid points and really highlight the tragedy of this situation and the manner in which the lives of the young people involved and their families have been sledgehammered.  I feel a sense of compassion about the way this has played out as well.  But......my sense of compassion for the victim and in particular for the guilty (they have now been convicted) is tempered by some inconvenient truths about this situation that we avoid talking about.  I didn't agree with my better half's title for her post.  I think Stuebenville only has one victim.

Inconvenient Truth #1 - If you drink and become intoxicated past the point of being able to comprehend whats happening to you, you put yourself at risk

Part of what makes this case so volatile is that many people, myself included, have a real problem with Jane Doe's behavior on that night in August of 2012, indeed, that she was even there.  She's a 16 year old girl.  By all accounts, like the other teens at the party she was attending, she was drinking and ultimately she got extremely drunk.  She's 16, so I'm not surprised that she can't remember what happened afterwards.  She's basically a kid and its no surprise that her body can't handle alcohol.  But 16 is old enough to know better, old enough to know you ought not be out drinking like that.  We live in a culture that is okay with drinking, we all know that underage drinking goes on.  Smaller towns and cities like Stuebenville, this sort of a party is not at all an uncommon thing.  So there are two failings here in my view,  Jane Doe's lack of judgement, no surprise in a young girl, and on the part of her parents.  The Momalog blog asks a relevant question "where the hell were the parents?" and I have to agree.  I have a daughter and she is not going to be out to the wee hours of the morning across the river somewhere and out of contact with me and I don't know what's going on with her. Bottom line: if you are a woman or a girl and get drunk beyond the point of comprehension surrounded by people you don't know, you are at risk. We live in a society in which women and girls are already very vulnerable and the risk of victimization is increased with this kind of behavior by Jane Doe and on the part of the adults responsible for her.

Inconvenient Truth #2 - If you take sexual advantage of a vulnerable girl or woman, you have crossed a line and deserve to face consequences.

I have a beautiful daughter and two handsome sons. For both their sake  we have to become a society that says very clearly that sexual violence against women is not only wrong, but it won't be tolerated.  Some have argued that Jane Doe's drunken behavior put her at risk.  That's true.  But some go further and say that what happened to her next was therefore her responsibility. That's not true.  We have a real problem in our society when two young men, ostensibly good upstanding kids, can take advantage of a utterly helpless girl in this way over the course of hours and never question what they are doing.  We have a real problem in our society when several other kids watch it happening and don't attempt to stop it, indeed, egg it on, joke about it, document it and holy mother of God, share it with each other.

The verdicts have now been rendered against the accused.  The judge found them guilty of having "digitally" penetrated the girl. Based on all I've read of the case, its my belief much more than that likely happened to her. But even if that was the extent of what occurred, we have to become a society that looks at that kind of behavior and says "thats across the line". Some have argued that what they were found guilty of doesn't justify the sentences of jail time they were given, nor branding them as "sex offenders" for the rest of their lives.  Perhaps.  But if you make that argument, then I want to know where the line gets drawn? I can't say I object to these sentences or find them to be out of proportion to the offence. The message has to be sent to parents and to young boys and men that there are severe consequences to crossing these lines. I want my beautiful young daughter to live in a society where there are very bright lines about this sort of behavior. I want parents telling their sons, there are lines you must never cross, lines you don't even want to approach.

Here then perhaps lies Steubenville's most inconvenient truth; that this debate, trial, verdict, punishment and fallout is a painful and necessary step in re-establishing the bright lines required for a decent society where our children don't practice or participate in shared depravity.

Enhanced by Zemanta